School vs. School

Some folks over in Scotland are running a Mind Olympics – talk about a great idea! Why not have a Mind Olympics between schools? How about setting up a challenge – using board games – to get everyone thinking and playing together?

First things first, here’s the link to the news story from Scotland.  

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, what does this have to do with us? Well, why not put on your own Mind Olympics. Even better, why not involve two schools. Chess clubs have been challenging each other for decades. Let’s expand that model.

Let’s generate a little inter-school rivalry and have some real fun doing it. Here’s how:

Step 1:  Establish your categories and select the games in each category.  Here are some ideas for different categories and games that work great with them:

  • Grammar: Sentence Says, You’ve Been Sentenced 
  • Math: SiegeStones, Mancala
  • Literature: Authors
  • Art: Portrayal, Cluzzle
  • History: Memoir’ 44, 1990,The Making of a President
  • Science: Eco-Fluxx

Ideally, you want to mix the games up, including light ones (like Cluzzle) and more serious. That gives you a chance to involve as broad a student base as possible. Also, include some the students may be familiar with as well as new ones. Stay away from anything collectible! You might hear students argue for their favorite collectible card game. Resist.

You may want to include a fairly complex game (like Memoir ’44). That’s great because there is undoubtedly a segment of the student body that will be interested in really digging into it. In the case of Memoir ’44, for example, the players get to recreate actual WWII battles. How cool is that? However, try to select games that are easy to learn and quick to play. SiegeStones and Mancala, for example, each play in 10-15 minutes, yet still fully engage the player’s brains.

Step 2:  Put together some simple medals for each category (or contact the game manufacturers for prize support). Prizes are always a great way to draw interest!

Step 3: Get the kids involved and pick a time. You want to select an evening a month or two from when you start that doesn’t conflict with either school’s other events. This is key, you don’t want kids picking between your olympics and their favorite sport. Don’t stop with the kids. Getting faculty involved will draw kids in.

Step 4: Let the competition begin! It’s going to be the best of your school against the best of their school. Post sign up sheets and get the kids competing with each other. If you have enough kids interested, you can even ladders and tournaments leading up to the olympics. Tryouts, if you will. If you’ve managed to get the faculty involved, this will really draw kids in. Seeing two teachers sitting tensely across a lunch table from each other will draw cheers and jeers – and get more kids involved. Heck, you could even schedule a games day (see here for information how) to establish who from your school will be going to the Olympics.

Step 5: Tone: Keep it light and fun! You don’t want kids stressing over this. These are, after all, just games. Ham it up, celebrate the victories, and have a great time.

By now, you’re probably thinking “where’s the educational part?”
That’s the point.

All of these games get the kids thinking and learning. The students will completely ignore the fact that they’re learning. From their point of view, this is the Olympics. They don’t need to be told that they’re strengthening math skills, learning history, or expanding their scientific knowledge. They don’t need to know that their test scores are improving, or their classes are suddenly easier. All they need to know is that they’re having a great time!

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